Friday, November 21, 2008

Cures for Heartbreak--Margo Rabb (book review)

Margo Rabb got my attention with her article in the NY Times Book Review, I'm YA, and I'm OK, about a topic near to my heart: that thin line between quality YA literature and mainstream adult literature. (Rabb did not intend to write a YA book, but that's how it was sold). After reading the outtakes on her blog from author interviews she did with Mark Haddon and Marcus Zuzak in preparation for the article, I had to read her book.

It took me a while to start it, though--a combination the height of my stack of books to read and its topic. Cures for Heartbreak has a lot of sadness. Also humor, hope, love and the voice of Margo Rabb, but don't let that cute heart-made-of-tiny-things on the cover fool you: you may find more Heartbreak than Cures.
"If she dies, I'll die" are the words fifteen-year-old Mia Pearlman writes in her journal the night her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Twelve days later, Mia's mother is dead, and Mia, her older sister, and their father must find a way to live on in the face of sudden, unbearable loss.
--from the book jacket

The book begins with the death of Mia's mother and follows Mia, her father, and her older sister, through their recovery over the year-and-a-bit afterwards. Rabb does a remarkable job portraying Mia as a complicated girl--well-meaning and funny but sometimes selfish and horrible in the way that one would expect from a fifteen-year-old in the year after her parent has died. Mia's relationships with her dad, her older sister, Alex, and the other people she spends time with are almost painfully realistic (and I mean that in a good way).

Despite the convincingly wrenching grief, I didn't cry till I got to the Afterward. That's where Rabb gives us her own story: how she wrote the book after losing her own mom to melanoma, how she lost her father to a heart attack soon after completing the first draft. Cures for heartbreak, indeed.

Soundtrack: David Gates wrote the song "Everything I Own" for his late father. His version is so '70s, though--Cures for Heartbreak takes place in the early '90s--so I chose the more updated version from 1987 by (Boy) George O'Dowd. Click on the playlist at right to hear it.


  1. It must be a good book if it made you cry.

  2. Our library doesn't have her book, but perhaps I can ILL it.

    Thanks for the links in this post -- I followed them and then followed the ones that led from there. I love it when that happens! And I've also added Margo Rabb's blog to my reader -- love it when that happens toos =).

  3. BermudaOnion, good point!

    Glenda, Glad you enjoyed the links! Is your library purchasing books at all these days? If so, it's worth putting in a request for this one to be purchased at the same time that you place your ILL request.